A Satire against Mankind: And Other Poems

A Satire against Mankind: And Other Poems

A Satire against Mankind: And Other Poems

A Satire against Mankind: And Other Poems

Excerpt

Rochester's paradoxes and problems--which began when he was born, on April 1, 1647, the only child of a cavalier father and a puritan mother--did not end until he died,on July 26,1680,in the torments of venereal disease and the comforts of religious conversion. Within those thirty-three years he had pursued, to their logical limits,a rake's progress of the body and a pilgrim's progress of the mind. Hence, in the memoirs and tracts of his time, he cuts a conspicuous but always elusive figure: his life is full of scandals and his death is matter for sermons. Yet it is Rochester himself who remains the most shameless scandalmonger and the most desperate moralist of a period which is equally distinguished for its scurrilous gossip and its eloquent preaching. It was Rochester who most acutely perceived the widening distance between preaching and practice, and who first sought to bring them together within the ambiguous yoke of satire.

His apology for himself & his period was an orthodox assumption that human nature is equally compounded of vice, "that seed of original sin," and virtue, "that sparke of primitive grace." For Rochester, as for André Gide , "Les extrêmes se touchent. " No other age except our own, perhaps, has been so painfully conscious of those extremes, or so bent upon realizing their conflicting possibilities. The seventeenth century, obsessed with the fall of man, could take nothing for granted that happened since. Once the bitter fruit of new philosophy had been digested, religious doctrines were doubted, moral codes flouted, social orders disrupted, economic . . .

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